SOTD: Choice Overload

Overchoice or choice overload is a cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

Many years ago, when my collection was less than 10 bottles, every morning I would just look at all the bottles on my shelf and choose one of perfumes that spoke to me that day.

Angry Birds and 3 Demeter Perfumes

Once I fell through the rabbit hole, and number of perfumes increased, every night before going to sleep I would mentally sort through all my precious possessions and choose what perfume would get my skin time the next morning. Back then I would try new perfumes during the day, so I was equally wearing perfumes from my bottles and from samples. I enjoyed my nightly ritual, and it would save me some invaluable morning time.

As the collection … matured, a concept of wearing perfumes vs. testing them had been introduced: for me to consider an occasion of applying perfume as “wear” it should be a) applied to more than one point and b) at least for a while, be a single perfume on my skin. At that point I stopped wearing perfumes from samples: I had so many perfumes that I already loved and paid money to own that it made no sense to keep kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings. But even without samples the number of choices reached the level where going through them at night would have the same effect as counting sheep…

Serta Sheep

But since I face this first world problem every day (and even more so as the time goes, with every next bottle or decant joining my collection), I keep trying different methods.

Visual Inspection

If I’m not pressed for time in the morning (and sometimes even when I am), I would still try this proven method. The issue with it is that my bottles – still in their boxes – are placed on the shelves in several rows, so even thought I tried to arrange them the way that the taller ones go farther into the shelf allowing the shorter boxes to be visible, it’s not a completely unobstructed view. As to decants, being in drawers, they are not easily “readable” when I look at them from above. I even tried adding two-letter abbreviations on the caps, but good luck figuring out before the first cup of coffee what “AB” or “BA” stand for).

Plagiarism

Sometimes in the morning, while still in bed, I read through the SOTD thread on NST or APJ until I come across somebody mentioning perfume that I feel like wearing that day. The disadvantage of this approach is that a high percentage of the reports are for new releases: many of the participants are still in the phase of testing/wearing just released perfumes from samples, while for me it usually takes a while to get newly released perfumes to join the line-up for wearing (read: become a bottle or decant).

Projects

I participate in at least some NST’s community projects on Fridays but a week-long (as many of participants do) “wear your oddest fragrance” or “wear a perfume by ” is too much for me – though I did a full week of ambers recently to catch-up on wearing those before it got too warm.

Lucas’s A Month of Roses (February 2017), my NovAmber (2016) and A Month of Irises (February 2018) were fun and made it easier to choose what to wear (since I had to plan each month well ahead), but seemed too limiting – so I cannot do those projects too often.

Going Big Small Data

Since I have all my perfumes and their usage recorded in a database, I created a simple query that would produce a list of perfumes that I haven’t worn in the last 2 months. The drawback is that as it doesn’t take into account any additional aspects – season, office-friendliness or occasion (I explained my complex perfumes-for-occasions designation in the first part of this post) – the query would produce still a long list, inevitably trying to steer me into wearing Amouage Ubar (my “special occasion” winter perfume) or Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess (an ultimate tropical vacation perfume) all year round.

Rusty on Laptop

How do you choose what perfume to wear?

Jessica (Bonjour Perfume) recently covered this topic on her blog and told about the unusual precognitions that guide her in this important decision-making.

I do not possess similar abilities, so I decided to try to improve my perfume database to be able to ask that important question. But to get the right answer one should ask the right question – so I’m trying to figure out what question I should actually ask, and I’d like to get your help.

If you could ask an all-knowing Answerer to choose perfume for you to wear on any particular day, what data points would you want it to consider? I’m talking not about guessing your mood or predicting reaction of somebody you’d meet this day, but information about perfumes, your previous experiences with them or any environmental factors that can be put into some formula and calculated.

Images: my own

 

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40 thoughts on “SOTD: Choice Overload

  1. Great post my dear, you touched a very difficult (perfumista-wise) question.
    Personally when I make a choice of a fragrance (and I try to do it the evening before, just like you) first thing I look into is the weather forecast. Depending if it’s cold/warm, rainy/sunny my choices would be different. Then I also try to select a fragrance from a different house as I don’t like wearing same brand 2 days in a row.
    My choices are also limited by the fact that my full collection is at my family house and that at the appartment that I rent I only have a part of it available and I rotate my perfume there season-wise, soon I will replace oud, leather, orientals with more fresh, floral options.

    • It’s interesting… Now when you’ve mentioned it, I checked: I also rarely wear perfumes from the same house two days in a row.
      When I have a limited set (let’s say, during the vacation trips), I feel better: I made all the choices in advance, have some extras – and then just choose from the smaller subset. In all the years just once I was completely off: none of my perfumes worked well in the hot and humid weather.

  2. That’s a tough question! At our house the bottles are literally all over the place because four of us wear fragrances and my parents also “borrow” bottles and bottles go back and forth. Recently I cleared out a shelf in my bedroom and placed seven bottles on there of scents I feel I would enjoy wearing on a regular basis that are also very appropriate for work. I also have a few bottles/decants at work for freshening up during the day. I decided to do my testing very early in the morning (pre-shower) or in the evening after work and am working my way through all of my samples in this fashion. I think when all of the little Marzipans finally leave the house for good and take whatever bottles/decants/samples they want with them I will better be able to inventory what I have and then decide where my collection goes from there.

    • For me to feel happy perfume-wise I need about 15-20 perfumes for a month: I do not mind repeating the same perfume a couple of times during any 30 days but I don’t like doing the same one more than a couple of times. And I need choices.
      I tried to run a mental experiment and choose 7 perfumes to… I stopped there: I’m not even talking about limiting my choices, but there is no good place where I’d like to put my bottles – other than where they normally reside :)

  3. For my workday I have to choose either lighter scents or spray very lightly as I am quite active and anything heady would become suffocating as the morning progressed. I often participate in the Friday NST community project but rarely all week. So I have a short list of work appropriate perfumes for each type of weather. On the weekends I either have something non work appropriate that I’m dying to wear or I do a random choice, sometimes with the help of random.org and my spreadsheet! But I have too many options and also a long list of samples to work through – sometimes I’ll dedicate a Sunday to sampling, switching out several times during the day.

    • I tried random approach (using Excel) but I’s not satisfactory since I have to either first manually select a subset of weather-appropriate perfumes or evaluate the offered choice and repeat the process until the result is satisfactory. That’s why I’m thinking about automating the process.

  4. I sometimes have the same problem. What helps me is that I participate on some of the weekly themed threads on the Fragrantica forum and I find those very inspiring.

  5. I think I’d add two criteria to your search: temperature (taking into account the weather and/or indoor climate, and one’s projected activity level), and sillage (is it appropriate for the office, or a meal?) Oh, and possibly longevity, if there will not be an opportunity to reapply. This is really a very complicated decision-making process.

    • I do take into the account – not that much longevity but rather the opportunity to re-apply: since most of my perfumes that I wear to the office I have to apply in very limited quantities, I have to see if I have a smaller bottle/decant that I can bring with me to apply more later. I’m currently out of 5 ml glass atomizers so often I have to limit what I wear to perfumes that either came in decants or for which I’ve previously made some.

  6. I go with plagiarism a lot, as well as taking into account my mood and the weather. But the enormous size of my collection is often paralyzing.

  7. Undina, this would take some time, but maybe you could make a chart for yourself that contains a series of categories, entirely of your making, with headings along the lines of, “Rainy Day Perfumes”, “Perfumes for Close Quarters”, “Perfumes for Grand Occasions”, “Perfumes My vSO Loves”, etc, etc. And based on memory of past wearings and the data you keep, you could list the perfumes that work best in those settings and climates.

    Sort of a crazy idea, but it’s all I could think of. :-D

    • I actually like your idea. I just need to come up with good categories. And probably make it possible to assign multiple categories to the same perfume. “Perfumes my boss dislikes,” “Perfumes I can risk wearing while being sick”… Possibilities, possibilities…

      • Great post! And, like Suzanne’s idea – it sounds like you already have an Excel spreadsheet with all of your perfumes listed? So you can add columns into infinity – listing the season, office/no office, main category/note, sub-category/note – and then you can sort by whatever categories to pertain to that particular day. If you do this please keep us posted! Good luck !

        • Thank you, Coin-op.
          It’s in a more complex (but then a more flexible) system – MS Access. So there’s no issue with making it happen technically – I just need to figure out what categories I want to use. If I implement any improvements, I’ll make a post out of it.

  8. Excellent post, Undina. My $0.02 and here’s how I usually decide and I don’t ask all the questions to arrive at the answer:

    A. Workday/In-Office Yes or No
    – If yes, what is the day going to be like? Basically, if spine strengthening is needed, I know it will be Chanel No.19 EDP. If spine strengthening not needed, proceed with B.
    – If no, proceed to B.

    B. What is the NST Friday Community Project. This is superseded by any other project I have committed to, including projects I’ve concocted for myself)

    C.
    1. where will I be for most of the day
    2. what am I doing
    3. who will I be with
    4. what will the weather be like (consider time spent indoors vs. outdoors)
    5. which perfume did I wear yesterday (I try not to repeat, although there are exceptions)

    Despite the above, most of my FB Chanels, Guerlains and a tub of assorted decants are easily accessible so there is an inherent bias in what I end up wearing. If I am following the NST Friday Community Project (or another project) I tend to decide on 2-4 more unusual (i.e. not worn as often by me) perfumes, pull them out, and go through C.

    • Your process reminds me of my but now I’m trying to formalize it :)
      I’m thinking about possible categories. For example, I started with “office-friendly/not office-friendly” but then thought that the same perfumes that would be considered “not office-friendly”, would be also considered “not plane-friendly” or “not symphony-hall-friendly.” So I should probably choose something along the line proposed by Suzanne above – “Perfumes for Close Quarters.” But then it’s not that binary… Some perfumes are inoffensive even if you bathe in them. Others might be used for the same purposes in homeopathic dozes. And the same issues come up with other categories (winter in the office, winter outside, summer with A/C, etc., etc.).

  9. I have a group of about 20 bottles of seasonal perfume choices on my dresser at all times and I pick whichever one speaks to me on any given day. They are all office friendly scents. Heavier ones get worn on weekends.

      • As I was formulating my conmentsm, I realized this would not pass as specs.. So it has to be a series of fit for purpose characteristics to group your perfumes. It’s a challenge and I will continue to ponder!

  10. I’m suffering from choice overload so unless I wake up specifically thinking of a perfume, I select something from what’s in the decant drawer and close at hand. After the month of irises, those are now close at hand so I’m wearing iris perfumes quite often these days. :)

  11. I am suffering from the same problem, especially lately. My collection is overwhelming me, and I’m not very organized, so I’m not helping matters. I use a lot of the same methods you do, but I don’t have an Excel spreadsheet to guide me. Often these days I’ve resorted to an almost random grab of something in sight if I can’t decide on anything.

    • My database (it’s an actual relational database I created in MS Access, not Excel – though even Excel can be used effectively) helps me to feel somewhat in control, and it makes it easier to look up perfumes for any projects I want to do. Now if I only could make it give me good suggestions for my perfume wardrobe rotation… We’ll see what I can do about it.

  12. I am woefully lacking in any kind of system when it comes to picking perfumes to wear, and visual inspection is more or less as far as it goes. I loosely consider season, weather, occasion, any need for mood bolstering, and whether I am meeting people who might be put off by anything too ‘out there’, though this process is barely conscious. Then I typically dive into a random selection in one of my many repositories. Sometimes in the very act of diving, I can be overcome by a sudden impulse to wear something completely different that is stored in another room in the house.

    • I’m surprised. For some reason I thought you’d have some system or logical reasons :).
      Doesn’t it bother you that some of your perfumes do not get any attention if you do not see them? One of my concerns is that unless I make a special effort I might not get to wear some perfumes for a couple of seasons for which I think they’re suited – even if I still like them and wouldn’t mind wearing. That last point brings another question: should I take into the consideration what I thought about perfume on the previous occasion (since I record that as well), and if yes, then how? Should I try matching the next wear to the time of the year or season when I liked perfume the most? Or, for example, should I give it another try on a different season if I was less enthusiastic about it on the previous occasion? I have many other ideas :)

  13. There’s actually a website for this called Parfumo. You add your collection to your page, and if you’re stuck for something to wear the automated Parfumo Assistant can help you pick something out of your collection depending on the season, time of day and whether it’s a weeknight or weekend. And if you’re good and record what you’re wearing everyday, it can also show how many days ago you last wore that fume.
    It might not be *as* bespoke as you’d like, but it is pretty neat.

    • I haven’t spent too much time with Profumo so I didn’t know about the Assistant (and the app on iPhone has a very limited functionality, and I didn’t explore the web version enough) but won’t those recommendations be based on some collective knowledge about what season is right for any given perfume, or what time of the day? But I’ll play more with it to see what it does – out of curiosity. Thank you for the idea.

      I record my usage and testing well (I think I miss about 10 days per year for the last 7 years), so I can easily look up not just the most recent occasion but the whole history for each perfume including both the formal “reaction” selected from the preset list and a free-text impression. So I’ll probably keep it in this form and will try to create my personal assistant – once I figure out proper classifications :).

  14. “it made no sense to keep kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings”

    That’s a perfect description of where I’m at. I realized I only keep 3% of what I try, so why chase samples when I have several loves? I always reach for the same three anyways.

      • Montale Santal Wood, Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin, and Montale Aoud Melody.

        I’ll take a look at the post on sampling. :)

          • They were chosen for me as signature scents by my favorite shop owner, so they have really good memories attached. :) They’re sure a challenge to wear in summer time though. All I need is enough to cover the end of a toothpick!

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